Face­book pi­o­neer rues its ‘phoney re­la­tion­ships’

Sunday Times - - WEEK IN REVIEW -

An early in­vestor in Face­book has com­pared the so­cial net­work’s meth­ods to those of Nazi pro­pa­ganda chief Joseph Goebbels and Ed­ward Ber­nays, the “fa­ther of pub­lic relations” who pro­moted smok­ing for women.

Roger McNamee, who made a for­tune from early back­ing of the so­cial net­work, sug­gested that Face­book and other tech­nol­ogy gi­ants like Google had sub­sti­tuted “phoney re­la­tion­ships for real re­la­tion­ships” and were not be­ing held ac­count­able.

“In or­der to main­tain your at­ten­tion they have taken all the tech­niques of Ed­ward Ber­nays and Joseph Goebbels, and all of the other peo­ple from the world of per­sua­sion, and all the big ad agen­cies, and they’ve mapped it onto an all-day prod­uct with highly per­son­alised in­for­ma­tion in or­der to ad­dict you. We are all to one de­gree or an­other ad­dicted.”

McNamee is the lat­est in a se­ries of tech in­vestors to de­nounce what they see as the evils of so­cial me­dia.

“Many of these meth­ods are the same as they use in casi­nos,” he said. “The prob­lem is the ad­ver­tis­ing busi­ness model. There are mil­lions of things they can show you and they pick the 20 things most com­mer­cially valu­able to them, and these are not de­signed to make you wiser, bet­ter ed­u­cated or health­ier.”

Sim­i­lar to tabloid news­pa­per wars dat­ing back to the 19th cen­tury, McNamee said, “fear and anger” had be­come the pre­dom­i­nant emo­tions on the so­cial net­work. “We have low­ered the civil dis­course; peo­ple have be­come less civil to each other.”

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